Afghans again being flown to US base in Germany before resettlement
Stars and Stripes December 11, 2023
KAISERSLAUTERN, Germany — For the first time since 2021, Afghan nationals are being brought here to the largest overseas American military community, where they’re waiting for long-sought documents that will allow them to move to the United States.
It’s part of a ramped-up worldwide effort by the State Department to resettle thousands of Afghans who worked for the U.S. government, along with their families, but who haven’t yet received special immigrant visas, a representative from the U.S. Consulate General in Frankfurt said Monday.
The first flight from Kabul arrived in Germany earlier this month, said the consulate official, who spoke on condition of anonymity, citing State Department policy.
The State Department is aiming to process the visa applications in under 30 days, the consulate official said.
After the U.S.-backed Afghan government’s fall in August 2021, more than 34,000 refugees were flown to Germany and given temporary housing at Ramstein Air Base and Rhine Ordnance Barracks, in the southwestern state of Rheinland-Pfalz, before moving to the United States.
It was part of the largest humanitarian evacuation in U.S. history, known as Operation Allies Refuge, which airlifted more than 120,000 people out of Afghanistan.
The number of Afghans arriving in Germany now is much smaller than in 2021, said the consulate official, who declined to provide figures or say exactly where the Afghans are staying.
The visas will be issued only to people and their families who meet all resettlement requirements and have provided “faithful and valuable service to the United States government,” the representative said.
Prospective immigrants must obtain their visas before arriving in the United States. The U.S. diplomatic presence in Afghanistan ended with the Taliban takeover, so the Afghan visa applicants first must travel to a third country.
Bringing Afghans to a U.S. military base means the processing can be done on a larger scale and in a controlled environment.
Resettlement efforts have continued since 2021 and special immigrant visas have been processed at 60 posts around the world.
During the last fiscal year, the U.S. issued more than 18,000 special immigrant visas to Afghan applicants, the most in a single year, according to the U.S. Consulate in Frankfurt.